The man accused of raping seven women and girls in southwest Miami
neighborhoods throttled his victims to subdue them, newly released
By Susannah A. Nesmith and Jay Weaver, The Miami Herald
The 11-year-old girl had just gotten home and was changing out of her
school shoes when she heard the knock.
She looked out a window and saw a short, chubby man with a cellphone
who looked like her cousin. She went to the front door and discovered
it was a stranger.
He grabbed her by the neck and threatened to kill her if she didn't
take her clothes off.
"I'd rather die than do this," she recalled thinking.
She survived to tell investigators about how the man raped her, how
he coached her when her mother called and taunted her about raping
her some more.
The account of the June 2 attack was released Thursday along with
several hundred pages of investigators' reports relating to six other
rapes allegedly committed by Reynaldo Elias Rapalo.
Rapalo, 32, is charged with raping women and girls ranging in age
from 11 to 79 between September 2002 and June in southwest Miami.
DNA tests linked Rapalo to six of the seven rapes -- police didn't
recover any evidence from the seventh. But Rapalo has confessed to
all seven, police said.
One common thread running through all the assaults appears to be the
rapist's preference for choking his victims.
When the 11-year-old opened the door, he asked her in Spanish if her
mother was home, then demanded a glass of water. She wouldn't let him
in. Her mother had told her not to let strangers inside.
"That is when he grabbed me by the neck," the girl told Mercy
Restani, the forensic interviewer for the state attorney's office. He
said he would kill her if she didn't take her clothes off.
The girl said she couldn't breathe.
She told him "No," and he squeezed her neck even harder.
She said as he raped her in her aunt's room, the phone rang and rang.
When he released her to let her pick it up, it was her mother.
Coached by the rapist, she told her mother that she hadn't answered
the phone right away because she was in the bathroom.
Her mother told her that she was coming home between 5 and 5:30 p.m.
The attacker overheard this, and told the girl: "Oh, I still have 30
minutes to play with you some more."
"Do you want to go to jail because my mom is coming home," she told
him after she hung up.
He didn't budge, saying he wanted to do the same thing to her mother
that he did to her.
When he left -- 90 minutes after he showed up -- the girl locked the
front door and called her mother. "I told her I had been raped," she
told the interviewer.
The investigators' reports also detail the May 15 rape of a
13-year-old girl, allegedly Rapalo's first child victim.
KNOCKED ON DOOR
She told detectives that she walked home from the school bus stop and
knocked on her door, but no one answered. She didn't have a key and
walked around the back of the house to knock on a window.
When she went back to the front of the house, a man was standing
there. The man led her back behind the house after telling her he saw
someone inside talking on a phone in the back.
He grabbed her by the throat and made her take her pants off. He told
her to lie down on the ground, where he raped her. When he was done,
he walked away, talking on his cellphone.
The little girl ran to a neighbor's house, crying, her face buried in
her hands, the neighbor told police. She was still wearing her
The third girl, a 13-year-old, was the rapist's last successful attack.
Armed with a screwdriver, the attacker confronted the girl at the
rear kitchen door of her apartment on June 9 and threatened to kill
her, police said. He dragged her to her mother's bedroom.
"If you don't do what I say, I'll kill," he told the girl.
She told police he raped her, and told her, "Don't tell anyone."
Following the attacks on the girls, police launched a massive manhunt
for a man they believed was a pedophile. It wasn't until DNA revealed
the same man had previously raped three women that they expanded
their search. The seventh victim was an elderly woman raped on May 22.
The first victim, a 21-year-old, told police she had just come home
and had accidentally left her door open. A few minutes later, she
discovered a man standing in her doorway, according to the police
reports released Thursday.
When he wouldn't leave, she tried to close the door.
He grabbed her by the throat and put a sharp instrument, possibly a
knife, against her neck. He pushed her into the bedroom where he told
her he was going to have sex with her, using a vulgar term she
recognized as Honduran slang. After raping her on the bed, he ran
On Dec. 3, a 55-year-old woman found the rapist already inside the
house when she returned from visiting her daughter. He grabbed her by
the throat and told her he had seen her at Sedano's grocery store. He
asked her where she was from and when she said Nicaragua, he said
that's why he liked her, because he was Nicaraguan, too. He forced
her into the bedroom where he raped her.
Police finally arrested Rapalo, a Honduran immigrant living in
southwest Miami-Dade, on Sept. 19 while they were looking for another
Rapalo averted his eyes as he drove by the officers, who
instinctively pulled him over. He resembled the victims' description
of the rapist, so they brought him in.